When the Google Wave hits Google Health

ss1The concepts of the tweme and the hashtag that have come to be associated with the ordering of discussions on Twitter have both served to foreground the fact that social media likes to circulate information, share ideas and sift over concepts. One notion that seems to be occuring to a number of people simultaneously is ‘what impact will Google Wave have on the Google Health PHR?’, with Clay ShirkyBrian Dolan, Jay Parkinson and many others having posted pieces along the same lines in the last day or two.

Dolan offers Google Wave’s own definition of itself in his article: “In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It’s concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content – it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use “playback” to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.”

Other descriptions of this ‘collaboration dashboard’ such as that posted by Adam Turner of the Sydney Morning Herald‘s in the Gadgets on the Go blog have been more prosaic, but are perhaps more immediate and effective: ‘I’ve seen some people call Google Wave “Twitter on crack” or “Friendfeed with benefits”, while others see it as “Lotus Notes on steroids” or “Sharepoint for the rest of us”. I think everyone sees Google Wave as something different because they’re bringing their own preconceptions to it and then imposing their own wants on it[…] What Google Wave does is combine email and instant messaging to create something that acts like both but is neither[…] Once you’ve started a Wave, other participants can see what you’re typing in real time, and they can also type in the Wave. You can drag in extra content such as images, annotate the comments of others and even change what others have written. You can also view previous versions and spin sections off into new Waves. I think you can also alter different users’ read/access to each part of the wave. Google Wave is obviously designed with real-time collaboration in mind, but when you log into Google Wave you’ll be notified on new Waves which involve you, similar to new incoming emails. At this point, you can replay the Wave to see how it developed as various users entered their input.’

It has been Jay Parkinson, however, who has offered the most provoking summary thus far as to the potential impact that Google Wave could have on health care. Having reflected on how news could be reported collaboratively using Google Wave, Parkinson signs off by asking the reader to imagine a health care setting for the platform wherein you ‘replace “news story” with “disease you suffer from”, “reporter” with “primary care doc”, “editor” with “specialist”, and “photos” with “lab results”, etc, and you can see its potential.’

You certainly can.

You can also see how the communities that have come together through their use of current social media technologies can and will migrate (initially through the use of APIs linking existing platforms) to Google Wave, and I can imagine them doing exactly the same thing when Google Wave’s conceptual successor is developed. Social media help people find each other, forge relationships, and form communities. It is the greatest substantive benefit that they can offer, and the finest achievement that they may attain.

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.

In view of the parallel debate that Parkinson and other are chronicling and participating in that asks who pays for the indiviual’s health care, and who is responsible for their well-being, it may well be nonsensical to assume that Google Wave is going to disassemble the existing health care system in the USA, for example.

What the current crop of social media tools and now Google Wave and its successors have allowed us to do is imagine, and only once you have imagined something can you begin to think about how you can make it come about.

One thought on “When the Google Wave hits Google Health

  1. Google Health is so far behind and so limited on resources, I doubt that they will be able to capitalize on the Wave. It will be an asbtract hanging somewhere of of GHealth and not an integral part.

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